Fanatics Keep Gassing Girls to Stop Them From Going to School

More than 300 students in Afghanistan were sickened this week after exposure to toxic fumes.

(Photo: YouTube)

Sep 4, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Throwing acid on girls or gassing them because they want to learn how to read and write—those are the horrific actions some men around the world resort to, to stop girls from going to school. The efforts of extremists appear to be escalating in Afghanistan after 300 girls from two schools around Herat, a city of nearly 500,000 in the western part of the country, were sickened this week by poison gas fumes.

The girls, who range in age from nine to 18, were gassed in three incidents, as were their teachers. “I was inside a classroom and felt a bad smell. I don’t know what happened later on,” Hasina, a teacher at one of the schools, told Pajhwok Afghan News after the first incident on Monday. “When I opened my eyes, I was in hospital,” she said.

Girls were banned from going to school in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 when the Taliban ruled the country. In neighboring Pakistan, now-18-year-old education activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head in 2012 by a Taliban gunman for her advocacy of girls’ education.

“I’m not just representing myself. I am speaking up for all girls who are deprived of education. There are about 66 million girls, and I think I’m speaking up for them,” Yousafzai, the subject of the upcoming documentary He Named Me Malala (produced by TakePart’s parent company, Participant Media), told The Daily Show host Jon Stewart in June.

In 2010, blood tests of those who’d fallen sick proved that members of the Taliban had gassed dozens of Afghan girls with poison to keep them from going to school. Schoolgirls were gassed again in 2013, but the Taliban denied involvement. Local police did not confirm that they suspected the group in this most recent incident, CNN reported. Abdul Razaq Ahmadi, the head of education for the area, told Voice of America that he believes the people who gassed the two schools are opponents of education and growth.

Still, it’s inspiring to see footage in the CNN video below of girls in classrooms eagerly learning—something that would have been impossible only a few years ago.